If you're a homeowner, you've likely been bombarded with telemarketing calls in the last year trying to sell you solar. We know, it's extremely frustrating. Sometimes, it's the solar company themselves, other times it's outside sales companies that generate leads for solar companies. On both sides of the spectrum, the calls are consistent and aggressive, and the same company will often call you repeatedly - even after you tell them you're not interested.
SunPower by Stellar Solar has never employed these techniques as we have been on the receiving end and know how frustrating it is. Frankly, it has never been a good way for us to find prospects either. We prefer to let our customers find us organically when they are looking for solar. We have found that taking the high road, the educational route, has earned us customers that are actually interested in installing solar, and don't feel like they have been forced or coerced into it.
The problem with these telemarketing practices and the aggressiveness with which they are pursued is that it waters down the true value of solar. When homeowners are constantly bombarded with calls that echo the same false promises of "free solar panels", it changes their view of the industry as a whole, as the desperation and pushiness of cold-callers indicate that they are selling some kind of scam, snake-oil.
Combine these aggressive marketing practices with the many horror stories online of people who have burned by solar companies, either by bad installations or shady sales tactics, and public trust in the solar industry has become widely eroded. This is unfortunate as many homeowners who could actually save a lot of money in the long run if they went solar with a good company, are deciding to not go solar at all, as their perception of the industry has been so badly dampened.
Some of the telemarketing tactics to look out for are:
High pressure sales tactics: Some companies are using limited-time offers or other tactics to force a quick decision.
DO NOT fall for these attempts at urgency. You should do extensive research, in search engines, review sites, and within your community before picking a solar company. Go with a proven company with a lot of reviews on multiple sites, and one that has been in business more than 4+ years so you know they are in it for the long run.
Misleading promises of rebates: Some solar salespeople may threaten you with the prospect of missing out on rebates or tax credits if you don't sign up immediately. What you should do is look for the best value without rebates. In fact, California state rebates are no longer available for existing homes in the PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E territories, and the Federal Investment Tax Credit has been extended through Dec 31, 2021.
Posing as a government or utility representative: This is a truly deceptive tactic. Some telemarketers will call using company names that are similar to government agencies in order to schedule a "free energy audit". If you fall for it, a solar salesperson, and not a government representative, will show up to your house to try to sell you. Company names include: "CA Green Energy Center", "National Renewable Energy Center", and the "Go Green Energy Center". There has even been reports that these deceptive salespeople will pose as a Utility Representative, and show up at your house to do an "audit".
What you should know is that the government is not calling people or sending out agents to assist homeowners in going solar. Anyone who claims that they're calling with the state or Federal Government to inform you about government solar programs is a con artist. They should be condemned, and reported.
Here's what you can do to get these companies to stop calling you.
Register with the "Do Not Call list (DNC)": Registering your number in the national "Do Not Call List" should be the first step you take in preventing solar telemarketers from continuing to harass you. There is only one official Do Not Call list, operated by the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC accepts registrations from landlines and cellphones. You can register by phone by calling 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236). Simply call from the phone number that you want to register, and they will provide you instructions from there. You can also register online at donotcall.gov, where you will have to confirm your ID via email.
File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. If you have asked a company to stop calling you several times and they persist, you can submit a complaint about them with the Better Business Bureau. If approved the complaint will be public on their profile and effect their overall Business score, which is very important to companies marketing. This should be a last resort after clearly asking the company to stop calling you. If they continue, filing a complaint about them on BBB will get the message across. You can file complaints here: https://www.bbb.org/consumer-complaints/file-a-complaint/get-started
File a complaint with the Contractors State License Board: Another way to penalize a company that is continuing to call you after you have requested they stop is to file a formal complaint with the Contractors State License Board. Again, this is a very serious action that can get the business in a lot of trouble, so this method should only be utilized if they are completely non-compliant with you. You can submit an online complaint at: https://www2.cslb.ca.gov/OnlineServices/ConstructionComplaint/ComplaintFormProcess.aspx, but you have to be willing to disclose some personal information so that they can verify the details of the complaint.
So if you're being harrassed by solar cold callers and continue to get called by the same few companies after telling them repeatedly to stop, you can take these few steps to protect yourself and others from the continued abuse. Companies that practice this technique should be reprimanded, as these techniques erode public trust in solar companies and solar in general.